Have you ever woken up in the morning and tried to brush your teeth, but you couldn’t quite open your mouth wide enough to reach the back molars? Maybe you wince from the pain you feel in front of your ear when you yawn, or you hear a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth.
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, there is a chance that you could be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects our skull with our jawbone. This joint is incredibly important to overall health because it allows you to talk, chew, yawn, and swallow. The TMJ is one of the body’s most actively used and least understood joints.
When the TMJ is not working properly, you can develop TMD. TMD can cause a variety of symptoms, including some that you might not associate with your jaw. Those symptoms include the following:
Sometimes things can happen to the temporomandibular joint that affects our ability to open our mouths normally. Our jaw can lock shut and, sometimes, even lock open. It also can click when you open or close your mouth. These things fall into the category of TMJ dysfunction. Causes can include:
If you think you have problems with your TMJ, physical therapy can help relieve the symptoms and pain of TMD and help improve the function of the TMJ. A physical therapist will look at your range of motion, strength, and function of the TMJ and the neck. They will also ask many questions about posture, ergonomics, stress, clenching, and nail biting. They can perform various treatments and share exercises and preventive strategies, including:
You may also want to set up an appointment with your dentist. They will assess your bite and make sure a dental issue isn’t the cause of your TMJ pain. They will also help evaluate whether you grind your teeth; if so, they might fit you for a night guard to help protect your teeth.
The symptoms of TMD may go away without treatment, but if you have a flare-up of symptoms, you can try the following suggestions:
So don’t delay! Take care of that TMJ!